Walt Whitman | |
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Christina Rossetti | |
One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel—every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
No as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.
Maya Angelou | |
When I was young, I used to
Watch behind the curtains
As men walked up and down the street.
Wino men, old men.
Young men sharp as mustard.
Men are always
They knew I was there.
Years old and starving for them.
Under my window, they would pauses,
Their shoulders high like the
Breasts of a young girl,
Jacket tails slapping over
One day they hold you in the
Palms of their hands, gentle, as if you
Were the last raw egg in the world.
They tighten up.
Just a little.
First squeeze is nice.
A quick hug.
Soft into your defenselessness.
The hurt begins.
Wrench out a
Smile that slides around the fear.
Your mind pops, exploding fiercely, briefly,
Like the head of a kitchen match.
It is your juice
That runs down their legs.
Staining their shoes.
When the earth rights itself again,
And taste tries to return to the tongue,
Your body has slammed shut.
No keys exist.
Then the window draws full upon
There, just beyond
The sway of curtains, men walk.
But this time, I will simply
Stand and watch.
More great poems below...
Thomas Hardy | |
"O 'Melia, my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?"--
"O didn't you know I'd been ruined?" said she.
--"You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docks;
And now you've gay bracelets and bright feathers three!"--
"Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.
--"At home in the barton you said 'thee' and 'thou,'
And 'thik oon,' and 'theäs oon,' and 't'other'; but now
Your talking quite fits 'ee for high compa-ny!"--
"Some polish is gained with one's ruin," said she.
--"Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I'm bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!"--
"We never do work when we're ruined," said she.
--"You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you'd sigh, and you'd sock; but at present you seem
To know not of megrims or melancho-ly!"--
One's pretty lively when ruined," said she.
"--I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!"--
"My dear--a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that.
You ain't ruined," said she.
William Butler Yeats | |
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
John Keats | |
IN a drear-nighted December
Too happy happy tree
Thy branches ne'er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them 5
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.
In a drear-nighted December
Too happy happy brook 10
Thy bubblings ne'er remember
Apollo's summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting
They stay their crystal fretting
Never never petting 15
About the frozen time.
Ah! would 'twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writhed not at pass¨¨d joy? 20
To know the change and feel it
When there is none to heal it
Nor numb¨¨d sense to steal it
Was never said in rhyme.
Wang Wei | |
There's a girl from Loyang in the door across the street,
She looks fifteen, she may be a little older.
While her master rides his rapid horse with jade bit an bridle,
Her handmaid brings her cod-fish in a golden plate.
On her painted pavilions, facing red towers,
Cornices are pink and green with peach-bloom and with willow,
Canopies of silk awn her seven-scented chair,
And rare fans shade her, home to her nine-flowered curtains.
Her lord, with rank and wealth and in the bud of life,
Exceeds in munificence the richest men of old.
He favours this girl of lowly birth, he has her taught to dance;
And he gives away his coral-trees to almost anyone.
The wind of dawn just stirs when his nine soft lights go out,
Those nine soft lights like petals in a flying chain of flowers.
Between dances she has barely time for singing over the songs;
No sooner is she dressed again than incense burns before her.
Those she knows in town are only the rich and the lavish,
And day and night she is visiting the hosts of the gayest mansions.
Who notices the girl from Yue with a face of white jade,
Humble, poor, alone, by the river, washing silk?
Sappho | |
That country girl has witched your wishes
all dressed up in her country clothes
and she hasn't got the sense
to hitch her rags above her ankles.
--Translated by Jim Powell
Oliver Wendell Holmes | |
OH for one hour of youthful joy!
Give back my twentieth spring!
I'd rather laugh, a bright-haired boy,
Than reign, a gray-beard king.
Off with the spoils of wrinkled age!
Away with Learning's crown!
Tear out life's Wisdom-written page,
And dash its trophies down!
One moment let my life-blood stream
From boyhood's fount of flame!
Give me one giddy, reeling dream
Of life all love and fame!
My listening angel heard the prayer,
And, calmly smiling, said,
"If I but touch thy silvered hair
Thy hasty wish hath sped.
"But is there nothing in thy track,
To bid thee fondly stay,
While the swift seasons hurry back
To find the wished-for day?"
"Ah, truest soul of womankind!
Without thee what were life ?
One bliss I cannot leave behind:
I'll take-- my-- precious-- wife!"
The angel took a sapphire pen
And wrote in rainbow dew,
The man would be a boy again,
And be a husband too!
"And is there nothing yet unsaid,
Before the change appears?
Remember, all their gifts have fled
With those dissolving years.
"Why, yes;" for memory would recall
My fond paternal joys;
"I could not bear to leave them all--
I'll take-- my-- girl-- and-- boys.
The smiling angel dropped his pen,--
"Why, this will never do;
The man would be a boy again,
And be a father too!"
And so I laughed,-- my laughter woke
The household with its noise,--
And wrote my dream, when morning broke,
To please the gray-haired boys.
John Greenleaf Whittier | |
Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.
On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.
Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?
Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin, -- our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!
Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!
John Greenleaf Whittier | |
Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the beehives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There 's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brookside my brow and throat.
Since we parted, a month had passed, --
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now, -- the slantwise rain
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown's blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before, --
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door, --
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went drearily singing the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!
Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away.
But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on: --
"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"
Stephen Vincent Benet | |
The last pose flickered, failed.
The screen's dead white
Glared in a sudden flooding of harsh light
Stabbing the eyes; and as I stumbled out
The curtain rose.
A fat girl with a pout
And legs like hams, began to sing "His Mother".
Gusts of bad air rose in a choking smother;
Smoke, the wet steam of clothes, the stench of plush,
Powder, cheap perfume, mingled in a rush.
I stepped into the lobby -- and stood still
Struck dumb by sudden beauty, body and will.
Cleanness and rapture -- excellence made plain --
The storming, thrashing arrows of the rain!
Pouring and dripping on the roofs and rods,
Smelling of woods and hills and fresh-turned sods,
Black on the sidewalks, gray in the far sky,
Crashing on thirsty panes, on gutters dry,
Hurrying the crowd to shelter, making fair
The streets, the houses, and the heat-soaked air, --
Merciful, holy, charging, sweeping, flashing,
It smote the soul with a most iron clashing! .
Like dragons' eyes the street-lamps suddenly gleamed,
Yellow and round and dim-low globes of flame.
And, scarce-perceived, the clouds' tall banners streamed.
Out of the petty wars, the daily shame,
Beauty strove suddenly, and rose, and flowered.
I gripped my coat and plunged where awnings lowered.
Made one with hissing blackness, caught, embraced,
By splendor and by striving and swift haste --
Spring coming in with thunderings and strife --
I stamped the ground in the strong joy of life!
W S Merwin | |
The sleep that flits on baby's eyes-does anybody know from where
it comes? Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling where,
in the fairy village among shadows of the forest dimly lit with
glow-worms, there hang two shy buds of enchantment.
From there it
comes to kiss baby's eyes.
The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps-does
anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumour that a young
pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn
cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew
washed morning-the smile that flickers on baby's lips when he
The sweet, soft freshness hat blooms on baby's limbs-does
anybody know where it was hidden so long? Yes, when the mother was
a young girl it lay pervading her heart in tender and silent
mystery of love-the sweet, soft freshness that has bloomed on
R S Thomas | |
There was Dai Puw.
He was no good.
They put him in the fields to dock swedes,
And took the knife from him, when he came home
At late evening with a grin
Like the slash of a knife on his face.
There was Llew Puw, and he was no good.
Every evening after the ploughing
With the big tractor he would sit in his chair,
And stare into the tangled fire garden,
Opening his slow lips like a snail.
There was Huw Puw, too.
What shall I say?
I have heard him whistling in the hedges
On and on, as though winter
Would never again leave those fields,
And all the trees were deformed.
And lastly there was the girl:
Beauty under some spell of the beast.
Her pale face was the lantern
By which they read in life's dark book
The shrill sentence: God is love.
R S Thomas | |
Scarcely a street, too few houses
To merit the title; just a way between
The one tavern and the one shop
That leads nowhere and fails at the top
Of the short hill, eaten away
By long erosion of the green tide
Of grass creeping perpetually nearer
This last outpost of time past.
So little happens; the black dog
Cracking his fleas in the hot sun
Yet the girl who crosses
From door to door moves to a scale
Beyond the bland day's two dimensions.
Stay, then, village, for round you spins
On a slow axis a world as vast
And meaningful as any posed
By great Plato's solitary mind.